Syrian News of No Political Significance

June 28, 2010 § Leave a comment

The popular online news site Syria News has an entire section dedicated to “incidents.” More accurately, “incidents” involving deaths of various sorts.

It’s the Syrian version of an American newspaper’s crime section, except with very little crime and it covers an entire country. Over the past six months, the section’s countless headlines have announced drownings, bus collisions, brawl deaths, and infanticides, perhaps indicating that these are the most newsworthy ways to die in Syria. So, I just looked at the suicides. Not because of morbidity, but because of the details included in Syria News’ reporting. Every victim is identified by only their first name and attempts are made, no matter how minimal, to compile meager quotes from “sources” that supposedly shed light on the “why” behind the suicide.

Why Women Kill Themselves

A 21-year-old female who was seven months pregnant hung herself inside her family’s home in Aleppo. She used the rope from a children’s swing. The report cites the reason behind her suicide as “arguments with her husband.” An anonymous source said, “There was a strong love between the deceased and her husband to the point that she was very jealous of him and would always call on his cell phone to find out his whereabouts.” The director of investigations elaborated more: “The wife demanded to her husband that he change his night work schedule in a private company to a daytime schedule, but the husband was determined to keep his night schedule, which led to an argument in which he hit her, took away her cell phone, and took her to her family’s house.”

Another female, also seven months pregnant and in her 20s, hung herself because of what the neighbor described as “constant arguments with her husband.”

Yet another female hanging suicide in the case of a 15-year-old female who hung herself from the roof of a barn. Investigators suspected that the girl had been repeatedly “defiled” thus causing her to commit suicide.

On the Syrian coast in Tartous, a 21-year-old woman described by her husband as “a mentally ill schizophrenic” shot herself in the head. The investigator said, “The deceased stole the keys to her police officer husband’s safe, where she found his gun . . . and then shot herself in the head while he was sleeping. He woke up after hearing the gun shot.” No reason is given for her suicide, except that she was mentally ill.

It is commonplace in Syria News’ articles on female suicides to find that domestic violence or simply spousal “arguments” are listed as the causes of hangings and self-inflicted shootings. Without making any wider comments on trends of domestic violence in Syria, it is revealing in itself to find a stream of female suicide narratives where both violence and domestic disputes constitute actual (or perceived) motivations for taking one’s life. The style of reporting is authoritative and fact-based, reading somewhat like obituaries, but lacking blatant sentimentality. Most of the articles end with promises of future investigations by local police branches, but the articles never present any reason for the reader to doubt that the suicide was just a suicide.

As for the reported male suicides, both were unmarried teenagers who poisoned themselves, leaving letters detailing their “melancholy and boredom with life.” One took a lethal dose of insecticide and the other aluminum phosphate.

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